Ofer - Palestinians staying illegally in Israel, Criminal Offence
Translation: Marganit W.
After waiting 45 minutes at the gate we were let in.
At 10:45 hearings had not yet started, so we asked the interpreter and the typists (who were already in Justice Meir Vigiser’s court) for the docket, but we were met with a new excuse: the interpreter said there were not enough copies, and the typists explained that they were unable to print out another list for us because the list included items that might identify the prisoners. We were told to go to the office, but there, too, we met with blank stares. Luckily, we saw Atty. Nubani in one of the rooms and he suggested we ask Eviatar, the assistant to the Public Relations Officer. There, we were able to obtain the lists.
In Justice Vigiser’s Court:
In the continuous hubbub of the court, summary hearings were carried out: numerous attorneys requested and were granted postponements. There were 37 detainees in the docket: 11 cases of staying illegally inside Israel, some accused of entering Israel without a permit, others of using fake IDs.
The growing number of such cases is a testimony to the desperate economic conditions in the West Bank.
8 cases dealt with “membership and activity,” broken down into “membership and activity” and “providing services” [to an unlawful organization], which usually covers religious, artistic, social and political activity.
10 cases had to do with manufacturing and using firebombs, which are divided into: preparation/throwing/planting bombs and hurling objects.
4 cases dealt with property violations, and a few more cases with “flexible” definitions such as “public disturbance” and other “criminal activity.”
All the cases were set for further hearings in mid December.
In two cases the hearing took a little longer.
Muhammad Hassan Ahmed Shusha – ID 936746189
Defense: Atty. Muhammad Shaheen
Charge: Violation of the closed area injunction and entering Israel without a permit.
Muhammad lives in Hussan and was arrested at Bethlehem Checkpoint.
Responding to the judge’s question, Muhammad stated that he was not represented by an attorney. The judge gave him two options: agree in principle to a plea-bargain or allow the court to appoint him an attorney. Muhammad replied that he would rather finish the trial then and there, forgoing representation by an attorney, but the judge repeated several times his suggestion that the court appoint him a defense. At that point Atty. Shaheen entered the court saying: I represent him. There was no exchange between him and the defendant, and it was not clear when the decision had been taken, especially since during the hearing Atty. Shaheen argued for a plea bargain whose details had apparently been agreed upon earlier.
The prosecution cited an earlier conviction (Case No.4343/12) of Muhammad, for the same violation. The defense argued that Muhammad had no choice: there is no work in the region and he is the only provider in his family. Moreover, Muhammad’s wife is pregnant and the birth is imminent.
The agreement presented to the court included earlier suspended sentences incurred by the same violation. As per the agreement, the sides moved to activate the suspended sentence from Case 4743/12 (one month of suspended sentence) and from February 2013 (4 months suspended sentence) - in all 3 months of cumulative prison time and the rest overlapping – altogether 4 months. It was left to the court’s discretion to impose a suspended sentence.
In his decision the judge stated that the court could not ignore the severity of the violation and the fact that it was repeated a short time after Muhammad had been released from prison: the penalties did not deter him. The proposed agreement was not strict enough, since it was mostly activation of earlier suspended sentences (4 months). However, due to the defendant’s dire situation, the absence of criminal record and an admission that saved the court time, the judge decided to accept the agreement and handed down a sentence of one month in prison beginning with the day of arrest for the present violation plus 3 consecutive months in jail for the suspended sentence from Case 4743/12. In addition, activation of a suspended sentence stemming from the indictment of February 2013, in all 4 months from the day of arrest. There was also a 500 shekel fine or 2 weeks in jail.
Muhanned Idris Abdullah Hamouda – ID 916631369
Defense: Atty. Ibrahim Nubani
Charge: Property violation
Muhanned came to court from his home. He is accused of possessing stolen goods: 59 mini-bars and 11 water filters, which he bought for 250 shekel each (from Moshe Even). The market price for those articles is much higher.
Atty. Nubani did not contest the facts.
The judge gave Muhanned these options: accept a plea bargain, in which case he would be convicted and the property confiscated, or face an evidentiary hearing, which may exonerate him.
Muhanned and the defense went out to confer. When they returned, they agreed to a plea bargain, whereby Muhanned would accept the charge and forfeit the goods.
We spoke with Muhanned in court, and he was eager to tell his side of the story. He gave us his cell phone number and we called later and the next day, but we must have had the wrong number, so we don’t know what the decision and the penalty were. We also wanted to know how much bail he had posted for his release, since he came from home, and how he expected to get that money back but, alas, we were not able to contact him.